Gergen: America is Facing Serious Challenges Domestically, Abroad

Noted author, professor and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen told attendees at Monday’s luncheon session that he’s worried about the world these days.

“We’re coming through a time when the country and the world are in a hell of a mess,” he said. “This is one of the roughest times I can remember, one of the toughest to understand. … There are surprises coming at us regularly both on the domestic side and the international side.”

Domestically, Gergen said, Washington is frozen in political gridlock that has prevented legislators from doing anything about such important issues as immigration and the nation’s slow economic recovery. Internationally, there are hot spots popping up all over, including in the Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The national government, at least the executive branch, increasingly is swept up with what’s going on overseas,” Gergen said. “I can’t remember a time when we’ve had so many fires burning simultaneously all over the world.

“… As ISIS builds new havens in Syria and Iraq, and things are happening in Africa, there’s new fear among our national security analysts that this actually is more threatening than it looks. It’s not something just over there. It’s something that matters here at home.”

The crises in the Middle East, eastern Europe and Africa have made President Obama’s weakness on his foreign policy team more apparent, Gergen said. He really is missing people like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

“They (Clinton and Gates) had deep people; they had deep teams,” Gergen said. “One problem Secretary (John) Kerry now has is he doesn’t have that much of a bench. … He doesn’t have the people and he’s in an airplane all the time. What happens is the White House is in the situation room trying to figure out what to do and he’s not there.”

Gergen said the political gridlock in Washington and the many troubles arising internationally have made Americans lose confidence in their future. He, however, has a mixed opinion.

“I happen to be a short-term pessimist because I just think it’s kind of hard to see where we’re going to get a break in the near term,” he said. “But in the long term, I’m an optimist. I never bet against the future of the American people. … We bounce back and secondly, we’re very creative.”

Millennials, he said, make him hopeful for the future of the country. Millennials have an enormous amount of idealism, he said, and “want to do well, but they also want to do good.”

But maybe it is time for baby boomers, who Gergen said have not governed well and have never seemed to come together as a generation like their parents did, to leave the country in the hands of a new group of leaders.\

“We’re seeing people (millenials), who really care about their country, who think what they’re seeing right now is nonsense and they do want to make a difference,” Gergen said. “My strongest belief is for those of us who are older, we need to do what we can, solve some of these problems and then get the hell off the stage.”